Got a Fulbright scholarship to live in Malaysia for 1 year
June 1, 2011 3:31 PM Subscribe
Torn about whether to take or pass on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because of safety concerns and pressure to do something academic/career oriented with my time.
Hello everyone! Please excuse the length of the post.
I am posting on behalf of a friend.
My friend applied for a Fulbright Scholarship (the Teaching Assistantship one, it entails teaching English in a foreign country for 1 year, all expenses paid).
She was very excited when she found out that she got into this very prestigious program, but overwhelmed because she had applied for Korea, but got Malaysia (a place that she hasn't researched).
She has a very short time to make the decision on whether to accept or not, and is torn about her decision mostly because of safety concerns and the pressure to do something "stereotypically" productive.
This is a two-part question. Feel free to ignore part 2 if you are not familiar with Malaysia.
Part 1: A waste of a year?
One of the reasons she is hesitant about this program is that she thinks she might be "wasting a year". She is 22, just graduated from college with honors. She has been very active throughout her college career both academically and in extracurricular activities (internships, managing a radio station, a prestigious journalistic program, etc...).
Her parents have instilled upon her that she is a "bum" (mostly because she is not interested in pursuing an immediately lucrative, concrete profession - i.e. law, business, medicine. Just imagine them as the stereotypical Asian parents, even though they are not Asian) , which could not be further from the truth. She feels that if she doesn't do something that yields very tangible results (i.e. getting a job to start her career or to continue her education), she is wasting her time. I am trying to convince her that she putting too much pressure on herself, and that this is a perfect time to do something like this, and that there are things you learn about life when living in a place so radically different from your home that you wouldn't learn anywhere else. This is an opportunity that most people only dream about. The kind of thing people muse about at the end of their life as proof that it has been fulfilling. An invaluable experience in many ways. She might regret it forever if she passes up on this.
By the way, her alternative to spending a year in Malaysia would be at a mediocre job in her college city (the job is affiliated with the university, part of the deal would be having the opportunity to take graduate classes gratis for a year). This job is only obliquely relevant to her degree (she is unsure about her career choice in general).
Of course, my convincing is not sufficient - because what do I know? I haven't spent a year on the other side of the world. What is your advice regarding this? Would love to hear from those who've had similar experiences or just older and wiser folk in general!
Part 2 : Malaysia Safety Concerns
She heard about the terrorist activities in the east of the country, and the statement on the US travel site "Violent crime against travelers and expatriates is relatively rare" is quite vague, and not reassuring. She is also afraid of standing out and attracting unwanted attention - she is tall and blond.
Because Malaysia is a new participant in this program, not very many details have been worked out. She would be placed in Jahor, Terenngannu, or Pajang. She would be living in a residential school in a remote town/village and teaching English for 20 hours a week for a year. There would not be any sort of overseeing body that she'd report to nearby (Fulbright has a center in Kuala Lumpur).
Does anyone have any information regarding safety issues in those three states? First hand knowledge, especially from long term stays, would be especially helpful.
What are the living conditions in remote towns in that region of the country? Are there parts in those areas that are very difficult to access and travel to and from? Safety aside, in general, what was your experience like there?
I appreciate any information you may have or experiences you'd like to share!